In 10 days, Adam and I, with our 5 kids embark on an almost 10 week road trip during which we will visit over 10 National Parks! It’s a crazy trip for sure. It’s something I have always dreamed of doing with my kids (even before we had kids!). But for the first time we are house hacking to do a long trip for free!

House Hacking for Free Vacations!

What we are doing

The first time we traveled for 6 weeks and we found a house sitter to watch our home. Last year when we traveled for 4 weeks, family was able to keep an eye on our place. This time we decided to rent out our home short term! With local zoning laws we are able to rent it out as a normal month to month rental. I have know people to sublet rentals or post places on Airbnb.

The amount we are bringing in will pay for 100% of our travel costs.

Who is looking

Adam was a bit nervous about finding a good renter! We are renting out our home fully furnished with our stuff so it felt different than finding people for our rentals. We have a strong rental market where we live and, especially in the summer, the demand for housing is high.

But even if you don’t live in a vacation destination, there are lots of people looking for short term, fully furnished rentals.

We posted our home on craigslist instead of Airbnb for a few reasons (partly because we wanted to be able to get to know the people). In 4 days, 4 awesome people had applied!

What kind of people are looking:

  • People relocating to the area who want to buy in a few months and need time to search for and close on a home.
  • People in the process of building a house. They have sold their current home and the new home isn’t finished yet.
  • People who work places short term. Especially common with larger companies who bring in people for 2-6 weeks or medical professionals who come for 3 months at a time. Renting a home is more comfortable and cheaper than a hotel room.

How we priced our home

I searched craigslist and Airbnb to see what the going rate was for fully furnished homes by the month. Then I priced it below that. I could have priced it 20-50% higher but was hoping for a better pool of applicants rather than top dollar. I also wasn’t willing to break it up into smaller time frames. There was a set price for the whole time we were gone if they used the whole time or not.

We settled on $2500 plus a deposit for the two months. Utilities are included but the renter has to maintain the yard or pay for upkeep. We offered extra days at the end which will be an additional cost.

Keeping our vacation costs low

Other than gas and campsites, our expenses traveling look almost identical to life back home. We use our National Park Pass and Museum pass which provides 95% of our entertainment. We eat out about the same as back home and do a similar amount of paid fun things.  This trip will consist of about a dozen National Parks so our days will be filled with new natural wonders, all day hiking, playing and about a dozen museums. Our museum pass will get our whole family into about 30 science museums for our one time $70 cost along our trip, but we might only go to about 12.

Our trip overview

I’m so darn excited for this trip! It’s a long held dream. And I just love National Parks and forrests. Almost all of these will be new to me: amazing things I’ve never seen or experienced. There is something about wandering around outdoors adventuring all day that feels like that is where I belong. All my best ideas happen there. And I feel more like myself. Plus those are my favorite times as a parent. Our kids are so happy and the most themselves as well.

Here is our tentative plan:

Salt Lake City. Arches National Park. Canyonlands National Park. Bryce. Zion National Park. Marble Canyon. Grand Canyon National Park. Flagstaff. Joshua Tree National Park. Disney (maybe? I’m not super excited but everyone else seems to be!). San Diego. Sequoia National Forrest. Kings Canyon National Forrest. Yosemite National Park. Point Reyes National Seashore. Redwoods. Crator Lake. Oregon coast line. Portland. Seattle area. Boise. Then home sweet home!

Travel Budget:

The most basic budget for our trip is this:

Camp spots 60 days (plus some nights with friends) x $30 a night (National Parks or military bases) = $1800

About 4,500 miles @ 20 miles a gallon (thanks pop-up camper!) @ $3 a gallon = $675

National Park Pass: Free with our 4th grader!

Museum Pass: $70

Total Trip: $2545

The extra days we rent our house will cover the other $45, plus that is less than what we would normally budget for gas. Now if we add one day at Disney, that would add an extra $1000. Although we normally set up our pop-up camper for guests and this year might rent it to tourists, which would easily cover our Disney splurge.

Of course, this is a trip I would happily pay for out of pocket! We have set up our whole life and created financial freedom just to make things like this possible. But the fact that it won’t cost us much extra is a nice bonus.

It can be a scary idea to rent out your home, but we were able to email and Skype with the person renting our home and meet her a few times in person. Honestly, I think she will do a better job than the house sitter we used before. She is thrilled to have a nice, affordable place to stay and I’m happy to have our camping costs covered.

House hacking for vacations can be a great solution for a lot of people who either want to travel for free or simply want extra travel money. We had budgeted $4,000 for this trip, and now that all our basic costs are covered we might splurge a bit more than normal or just come home and use that money else where.


For Conversation:

Have you ever rented out your home or hired a house sitter?

Any thing we need to visit along our itinerary?!?